I am a picky person. When I want something, I want THAT EXACT THING and nothing else will suffice regardless of cost or location or sheer difficulty. It’s useless trying to get me to settle for something else because I don’t want it. I want the other thing. This applies to clothes, shoes, food, people and naps – with very few exceptions. I am, essentially, my supplier’s dream customer and their competitor’s worst nightmare because I do not except substitutes. And, apparently, I’m not the only one.
Most AFL fans are like this as well.
That’s right folks, today we’re talking about substitution. Ah, Economics.
Substitution is exactly what it sounds like – a suitable alternative for a product or service. Here’s the first issue with defining a substitute: everyone has a different definition for “suitable alternative.” That’s why there are varying degrees.
For instance, you walk into a coffee shop and you ask for Twinings green tea. They don’t have Twinings green tea – which means you need to find a suitable alternative. Some people would be fine with another brand, as long as they get green tea. Others may be fine with chamomile tea or black tea, as long as they get tea. Others might be fine settling for a coffee, as long as they get a warm beverage. Others will pass on the tea because it’s not the tea they want. See the distinction?
In a perfect world, there are no substitutes for a product and no customer can find a suitable alternative – that’s a supplier’s dream. (This doesn’t apply to many things… water, electricity and similar products are probably the only things where there are ABSOLUTELY NO ALTERNATIVES – although I guess you could have candles if you wanted…).
Lots of things determine the suitability of an alternative, and price is a big one. Take grocery store products. Lots of people don’t see a difference between the store brand sugar and the fancy sugar so they opt for the store brand because it’s cheaper. Sure, the fancy brand may be better… but is worth the cost? Not to them. Not to mention that there is also the possibility of sugar-free sweeteners, Stevia, brown sugar, raw sugar, other sweeteners like honey, or syrup etc… the substitutions are endless (depending, of course, on the purpose of the item)!
Now imagine these substitution seekers are sports fans who have nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. They start thinking about going to a sporting event. But before they do, they start exploring their options. What constitutes a suitable alternative for a sporting event? I’m so glad (kinda) that you asked.
There are narrow and broad definitions of substitution here. Let’s break them down.
- The sports fan wants to see a game in person: different seats, membership, game packages.
- The sports fan just wants to watch the games: as above PLUS TV broadcast – free-to-air or pay TV, tablet/phone/computer apps.
- The sport fan just wants to see sports: as above PLUS local clubs, other sports
- The sport fan just wants to be entertained: as above PLUS movies, plays, TV shows, and all other forms of entertainment taking place in a city at the same time (OH MY GOODNESS THERE REALLY ARE ENDLESS OPTIONS!)
So you begin to see what sports teams are fighting for here? They are fighting so many substitutes that they can’t be counted.
Real life example time: The One Day International series, last Sunday.
Boyfriend and I were considering going to the match. He needed to know what was happening, no matter what, so the only question was: how? In this case, the substitutions list is relatively short. He had a few options:
- Attend the match for free with our friend, who is a member.
- Pay to attend the match with another friend, who he knew wanted to go.
- Watch the match on TV.
- Listen to the match on the radio.
- Stream the match online.
Check the score on his phone.
Long story short, he watched some of the match on TV and listened to the end on the radio on his drive home. In this case, although he wanted to attend the match, watching on TV and listening on the radio were suitable alternative for this. He is NOT a sport club’s dream. He’s just good business.
Now I’ll never fit everything I want to say in this post so we’ve got to break this up. In part 2, I’ll tell you about AFL fans and substitution, while in part 3, I’ll discuss possible ways to make your product un-substitutable. (I’m not sure that’s a word but hey, sounds good, looks good – DONE).
In the meantime… leave me your questions so I can answer them in the coming posts.